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Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945

By David M. Kennedy | Go to book overview

17
Unready Ally, Uneasy Alliance

The British are trying to arrange this matter so that the British and the Americans hold the leg for Stalin to kill the deer and I think that will be a dangerous business for us at the end of the war. Stalin won't have much of an opinion of people who have done that and we will not be able to share much of the postwar world with him. -- Secretary of War Henry Stimson, May 17, 1943

America's war against Germany, like its war against Japan, began at sea. The Battle of the Atlantic, already two years old when the United States entered the war, was a contest for supremacy on the ocean highway across which all American supplies and troops must flow to Europe. Everything depended on keeping that highway open. Dwight D. Eisenhower, newly promoted to brigadier general and freshly installed as chief of the army's War Plans Division, submitted a penetrating assessment of the importance of the North Atlantic sea lanes to George Marshall on February 28, 1942. "Maximum safety of these lines of communication is a 'must' in our military effort, no matter what else we attempt to do," Eisenhower emphasized. Shipping, he presciently added, "will remain the bottleneck of our effective effort," a statement that echoed repeated pronouncements by both Churchill and Roosevelt that the struggle with Hitler would be won or lost at sea.1

It looked at first more likely to be lost. When he declared war on the United States shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack, Hitler untethered the German submarine service from the restraints against which it had long chafed. Karl Dönitz could now loose his U-boats as far westward as America's Atlantic shoreline, cutting the Allied supply lines at their

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1
PDDE 1:150.

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